Learn how fantasy baseball became a thing.
Dir. Adam Kurland & Lucas Jansen, 2010, 53 min, Viewed via Netflix Instant
I now know what a movie that doesn’t love its subject looks like. Either that, or Silly Little Game is deathly embarrassed by its subject. It seems that at every available opportunity, there is someone here who will ruefully talk about how dumb fantasy baseball is. Now, I totally get that, as I am of the opinion that fantasy any sports are firmly in “not for me” territory. That being said, if you’re gonna make a movie about it, own up to it. Have some love. If you distance yourself from the reasons that people get invested in something, then why should the audience care about that something?
Silly Little Game traces the origins and development of fantasy baseball. While variations on sports fans using stats to play D&D for non-nerds has been around since at least the 50’s, it didn’t codify into something really organized for baseball fans until the 80’s. That was when writer Daniel Okrent brought together a group of fellow baseball enthusiasts to play the game. They called themselves “Rotisserie League Baseball,” after Rotisserie, the New York restaurant where they first met to play. To this day, Rotisserie rules remain the most common method of keeping score in fantasy baseball.
The doc didn’t really help me understand how the game works any more than I already do. Then again, you have to know how sports stats work to have any hope of getting how something based on those stats work, so even the dumbest-downdest kind of explanation probably wouldn’t have made it click for me. I understand, on a basic level, that how each member of a fantasy league’s team will perform depends on how well the players they pick do in the real-life baseball season. So there’s that.
But I still didn’t get it well enough to be able to give any cares during long stretches of the film. A good portion of the middle, after it’s established how Rotisserie League started, then charts how the early games went, which is not very interesting at all. Who cares who out of this first group won what? Is that really all that important?
The movie also has some of the strangest use of reenactment that I’ve yet seen. There’s no reason any of the 80’s scenes had to be acted out for us, much less acted out in such an over-the-top manner. It continues the doc’s attitude of piss-taking towards its subject, which is actively working against it. I mean, I totally understand not wanting to take this stuff too seriously. After all, this is about people going into fanaticism over sports and paper. But at least give us enough of a reason to care about this stuff.
Silly Little Game kind of summarizes its problems in its title. It’s condescending to the people who practice the very thing that it’s talking about. It’s the equivalent of being told a nation’s history by some person who hates that nation… Only, somehow, that person has the help of people involved in that history. Look, it’s not a perfect analogy, but my point stands.